Michigan Basketball: 5 Biggest Stars Responsible for Early Success

Josh BerenterCorrespondent INovember 29, 2012

Michigan Basketball: 5 Biggest Stars Responsible for Early Success

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    The Michigan Wolverines earned their highest preseason ranking in two decades, and through six games in the 2012-2013 campaign, the Maize and Blue have lived up to the hype.

    Michigan, which is ranked No. 3 in the nation after beginning the year at No. 4, has sprinted out to a 6-0 record, winning the NIT Season Tipoff Championship and defeating No. 18 NC State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

    The Wolverines are off to their first 6-0 record since 2006, when they started 7-0, but this team has been mentioned in the Final Four conversation, and haven't showed any signs they don't belong in that discussion.

    Michigan has had success because of a good mix of veteran leadership and youthful energy, which has resulted in one of the most prolific offenses in the Big Ten and the No. 5 field goal percentage in the country.

    The Wolverines have passed their early season tests and have a favorable schedule ahead that should let them cruise into conference play with a tremendous amount of momentum.

    Here are the five biggest stars responsible for Michigan's early success:

5) Mitch McGary

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    Mitch McGary hasn't put up the numbers that some may have expected when he signed with the Wolverines as the No. 2 recruit in the country last November. However, McGary has given Michigan a lot of energy off the bench and has greatly improved the Wolverines' rebounding numbers.

    McGary's recruiting stock slid after signing his National Letter of Intent, and the 6'10", 250-pound forward has been working ever since to prove that he deserved his one-time five-star status.

    He hasn't managed to crack the starting lineup just yet, but McGary's passion for the game gets his teammates, and everyone in the arena, fired up, and he might be better as a sixth man.

    McGary had his best performance of the season in the Wolverines' opener against Slippery Rock, scoring nine points and recording nine rebounds. The freshman has averaged 5.5 points and 5.7 rebounds in just over 14 minutes per game.

    Michigan coach John Beilein has been careful with McGary after the forward battled a preseason leg injury. As he continues to heal and get his legs under him, expect the freshman to get more minutes and begin to dominate the paint in the Big Ten.

4) Glenn Robinson III

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    Glenn Robinson III became the most heralded member of Beilein's 2012 recruiting class when he garnered a five-star rating last summer.

    As the only freshman in the starting lineup, Robinson III has more than held his own in his first several college games.

    The 6'6" forward had his coming-out party in Michigan's second game, against IUPUI, when he hit his first eight shots, including going 3-for-3 from the beyond the arc, cruising to a 21-point performance.

    Robinson III has been steady in every game, putting up at least nine points in each contest and scoring in double figures in four of the first six games.

    He's done it all on the floor, giving Michigan an energetic defensive boost, as well as attacking the glass, averaging 7.5 rebounds per game.

3) Nik Stauskas

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    Nik Stauskas told MLive.com that he's put up an estimated one million jump shots in his life.

    All that time he spent in his Mississauga, Ontario backyard has paid dividends in his first six collegiate games, as the freshman has averaged 13 points per game and a team-best 58.3 percentage from the three-point line.

    "(That comes) from my backyard, just shooting," Stauskas said to MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner after recording a season-high 20 points in the Wolverines' win over NC State on Tuesday. "I've probably taken a million shots in my life, that's pretty much all I did when I was a kid."

    Stauskas, who will almost certainly become a starter at some point this season, has come off the bench in each of Michigan's first six games and spread the floor with his deadly range and quick trigger.

    When Stauskas enters the game, opponents are quickly learning that if they don't respect the freshman's shooting ability, they're in for a world of hurt.

    Stauskas has been in double figures in each of the last five games. As teams have started running at him beyond the line, the 6'6" guard has shown the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket.

    He's gotten to the free-throw line with regularity and converted the freebies just as regularly, shooting 95 percent (20-for-21) from the stripe.

2) Trey Burke

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    Trey Burke was named a preseason All-American after flirting with the NBA last offseason. He has avoided a sophomore slump and lived up to the preseason billing.

    Burke has averaged 16.7 points and 7.5 rebounds this season. He turned in his best performance on the biggest stage, putting up 18 points and dishing out 11 assists in Tuesday's win over No. 18 NC State.

    Not only did Burke record his first double-double of the season on Tuesday, but he also played 34 minutes without any turnovers, and boasted his best single-game shooting percentage this year.

    Burke has a complete game, and he can do so many things on the floor that force opponents to give him so much attention. He's learning, in his sophomore season, how to let the game come to him and to take what the defense gives him.

    He's stopped forcing action, and he is seeing the entire floor much better.

    With his increased success dishing the ball, he's also making his teammates much better, which is the true mark of a great point guard.

1) Tim Hardaway Jr.

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    Tim Hardaway Jr. has had a good career at Michigan, averaging 14.2 points per game in his first two years in Ann Arbor, but it just felt like there was another gear that Hardaway Jr. had yet to hit.

    In the first six games of his junior season, Hardaway Jr. has found that other gear and went from good to great so far this year.

    Hardaway Jr. is averaging 17.8 points and has greatly increased his rebounding prowess in the early going this season, grabbing 6.2 boards per game, compared to just 3.8 rebounds last season.

    The junior from Miami has increased his three-point shooting percentage from 28 percent a year ago to just under 37 percent this season, and he's found a way to impact the game in so many ways.

    Hardaway Jr. is just one of those "glue guys" that every team needs. Players look for his leadership when a game is on the line because they know when it comes down to it he'll do whatever it takes to get
    a victory.